Sometimes you feel like a plaything of the gods. The muse of wargaming seems to be following me around and whispering stuff in my ear at the moment.
Back in 2010, with the considerable help of SOTCW colleagues, I finally managed to get to the table the long-cherished idea of a big game of Rapid Fire based on the US Rangers’ and RM Commandos’ landings on the left flank of the September 1943 Salerno landings.
I needed some extra kit to complete the Ranger battalion I was contributing and so I went out and purchased the Revell US infantry. I knew they would give me the 50cal HMG and the mortar I needed to add to my Italeri yanks. What I’d not checked was that the Revell chaps, lovely though they are, are in distinctly wintery garb. As a result they mostly stayed unused.
Cut to a few years later and I’m in a second-hand bookshop. I find a copy of Lise M Pommois’ book on the fighting in Alsace over the winter of 1944/45. It’s full of detail and, while I have no plans to wargame Operation Nordwind, it’s from a small French publishing house and I’m unlikely to ever see another copy on sale. I grab it.
Later still, a family holiday is mooted. After surprisingly little discussion we settle on a week in the Northern Vosges region of Alsace. It’s a lovely place and I especially enjoy our visits to the Maginot line at Schoenenbourg and to the magnificent 18th century Citadel of Bitche.
All goes quiet until a couple of weeks ago. Tom Davis has borrowed and now returns my copy of this Osprey book:
I looked anew at the cover and thought, “I could use those old Revell figures and do a winter 44/45 platoon for Chain of Command!”
Looking at the platoon organisations for the Americans in the rules, though, I’m short of about a dozen riflemen so I go back to the model shop that provides for my plastic soldier needs. They haven’t got the Revell winter Americans but they do have a similar pack from Italeri. I take them home.
The Italeri chaps prove a very good match for the Revells in terms of stature and sculpting style so I’m happy. But what’s this? Three of the figures are armed with the rather rare M1919A6 .30cal light machinegun with bipod. Who were they issued to?
Well it turns out there are two US army divisions that get the M1919A6. One of them sees action in Brittany in summer ’44. The other is the 100th Infantry Division.
The 100th Infantry Division? What can I find out about them? Well, they saw action in the Vosges during the winter of 1944/45, they stood up to German attacks during Operation Nordwind and they are now known as the Sons of Bitche because of their fierce fighting for that town in early 1945.
I think my destiny is clear don’t you?